Notes From The Workfront: FSU History Alumnus Jeffrey Henley (MA 2020)

Mon, 08/17/20
Headshot of  Jeffrey Henley

I graduated with an MA in Public History this spring, and less than a month later found a job with direct ties to the internship I did with the Cultural Resources Office at the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) the summer before. I am now a Cultural Resources Associate with Green 3, LLC, which is a cultural resources firm involved in environmental planning and design.  Our primary focus is on placemaking, community building, and the protection and preservation of natural resources and cultural heritage. We carry out our mission with a team of ecologists, environmental scientists, archaeologists, and historians investigating and researching landscapes and sites in advance of transportation projects being planned in the state of Indiana. While the mandate to protect and preserve natural resources and cultural heritage might seem straightforward, our placemaking and community building mission deserves further explanation. We strive to revitalize existing communities using their existing assets without resorting to gentrification.  We hope for the community to experience uplift, not the displacement of residents and businesses.

As a consulting firm to INDOT and associated engineering firms, our responsibility is to guide projects through the Section 106 process mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) and produce the necessary documentation to satisfy the requirements as set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act (1970). Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to take into account the impact on historic properties their activities might have.  The Section 106 process is how federally-funded state and local transportation projects are reviewed for potential impacts. This process gives interested parties, including individuals, an opportunity for input in the project.

My Cultural Resources Team intervenes in the early stages of a proposed transportation project to determine whether properties exist in the Area of Potential Effects (APE) of the project that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  We investigate on-site as well as conduct historical research to identify properties that may be eligible for the NRHP. Whether or not a property is eligible can change the trajectory of a project quite drastically.  Another part of our mission is to make sure that proposed projects are in compliance with all state and federal regulations regarding historic resources.

My education at FSU prepared me well for this challenge.  Most recently I have used the research skills I learned to write a Historic Property Report for a project in Franklin, IN. I discovered a neighborhood within the APE that exhibited some characteristics of both Post-WWII Tract Housing and World War II Era Housing as defined by the NRHP.  I investigated the neighborhood and its history to determine if it might be eligible for the NRHP as a historic district.  After lengthy research through a wide variety of historical sources, I came to the conclusion that too many questions remain, due to gaps in the documentation of the neighborhood, to make a solid case for eligibility.  Perhaps, one day, I might revisit that neighborhood for further investigation.  There may yet be proof lying undiscovered for a formal National Register nomination.